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Salt Lake blanks defending MLS Cup champion Crew

(AP Photo/George Frey)

(AP) -- SANDY, Utah (STATS) - Clutch performances are quickly becoming a trademark for Robbie Findley. And for the second straight week, the speedy forward proved to be the difference maker.

Findley scored in the 88th minute to help Real Salt Lake post a 1-0 win over the defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew on Saturday in the first leg of the two-game playoff series.

The win gives Salt Lake a much-needed cushion as the teams head to Columbus to play again Thursday.

"They wanted to come in here, bunker in and play defense and get a 0-0 draw," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "Obviously, getting one goal is great for us. We wanted a couple of more but they're a tough team to break down."

Will Johnson set the scoring play in motion with a quick throw-in to Yura Movsisyan on the left flank. Movsisyan tracked the ball into the corner and delivered a hard cross across the goalmouth toward the right post.

A charging Findley threaded the ball perfectly between Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer and the post.

Findley scored twice in the first half of a 3-0 win over Colorado last Saturday.

Still, Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis credited the latest win to Movsisyan. He came off the bench after starting against the Rapids and provided a major spark late in the second half.

"It's not good enough to continue with what's been going on," Kreis said. "That's why we make substitutions. We wanted a little bit more and I thought Yura gave it to us."

Columbus struggled to generate much of anything on offense and ended up being the third straight team to be held scoreless at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Crew generated seven shots to eight for RSL, but didn't have a shot on goal in the second half after recording two before halftime.

Columbus coach Robert Warzycha made a curious decision to pull reigning league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto out of the starting lineup. Schelotto, who scored 12 goals this season, did not play at all.

Warzycha defended the move by saying he was attempting to revive a slumping offense after seeing the Crew - a two-time Supporters' Shield winner - score once in its final four regular season games.

But the results were not what he hoped to see.

"Obviously, you always go into the games to score goals," Warzycha said. "You cannot tell the players not to score goals. But sometimes you cannot create chances and that's what happened today."

RSL viewed the decision to sit Schelotto as a sign Columbus was more concerned with forcing a draw and taking the series back to Ohio on even ground than doing anything else.

And after seeing the Crew bunkering in and defending for 90 minutes, Salt Lake fully anticipates seeing a much different team on Thursday.

"We're up 1-0 now, but it's not over," said Findley, whose team went 9-1-5 at home in the regular season. "We got another 90-minute game to go. And they're going to throw everything at us at home. We got to be sharp when we go over there."

Updated October 31, 2009

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